When I decided to embark on my quest to compete in my first physique competition, I figured that the entire process would be both challenging and interesting. My reasoning behind competing is to go through the full experience and really challenge myself to see how far I can take it, how well I progress and what I can learn from all of this. Even though I am still months away from stepping on stage, it’s already become very clear that there is no “one size fits all” plan that works for everyone perfectly and that even with a plan that is geared specifically for my needs and goals, I still have to make changes to it if I have any chance of being ready.
I like many others, have followed the whole “sodium is the devil” way of eating over the last few years. Both food conglomerates and health foundations have deemed salt as one of the biggest culprits of bad health. So naturally, I have cut out added salt whenever possible in recent years. Unfortunately, my buying into this whole thing had me overlooking a couple of very important health issues. First, it is the excess sodium from a poor diet (consisting of fast and processed food; basically the average North American diet) and a lack of water consumption that are the main culprits behind this. For someone like me that drinks 1 gallon of water each day, brown bag’s my lunch to work, avoids pre-packed foods and eats out only a few times a month, this doesn’t fully apply. In fact, it’s actually proven to be a bit of a hindrance during my prep; truth be told, as part of my nutrition plan, my coach suggested that I lightly salt my meals, which of course I wasn’t doing. Sodium is an electrolyte (along with potassium, chloride and some others) and electrolytes help maintain the body’s pH levels, the amount of water your body holds on to and it aids in muscle function (basically keeping you from cramping up during an intense workout). Whenever we sweat, we lose part of the electrolytes in our body, making it super important for someone prepping for a contest who is going through two-a-day intense workouts to consume and replenish electrolytes. One good indication of this is the colour of your pee. Sorry for the TMI, but if it looks like lemonade you’re well hydrated and your electrolytes are well balanced, but if it comes out clear then you are deficient, which was my case. The big problem with my keeping my salt intake to a minimum now, is that when I have to deplete water the week of my contest, it won’t have as big of an impact on my physique as it would for someone who regularly consumed some added sodium. Ultimately, I wouldn’t be able to get the cut and defined look of a bikini competitor. So now I am actually following my coach’s advice and adding a little bit (as in a pinch) of salt to all of my meals. I have recently read up on countless articles from coaches and competitors stating that one of the biggest mistakes that first time competitors make is reducing their sodium intake too soon, so needless to say that’s over for me. Which brings me to my next point…
I am done with asparagus, for now at least. Asparagus is a diuretic, which makes you pee a lot, again depleting your water. Every time I would eat some, even a small portion, I would be constantly in and out of the bathroom and what’s worse was that because I was losing water, I was thirsty all the time and once again I was losing extra electrolytes making it harder to workout out. Not to mention the fact that when I would work out, it would be interrupted because I kept having to run to the bathroom in between sets. I’ll hold off on this veg until I’m about four weeks out.
Another change that I’ve made is that I’ve added an extra multivitamin to my daily supplements. Initially I was taking Progressive Mutli for Active Women in the morning with my first meal of the day, but now I’ve adding their standard women’s multi with dinner as well. The reasoning behind this is that the harder you workout, the greater amount of nutrients (including vitamins) the body will needs as intense exercise tends to deplete the body of many nutrients. So in order for me to recover well after each day and get stronger from all of the work, I need to get a greater amount of vitamins in each day. I was noticing, particularly in the last two weeks, that the workouts were starting to feel more strenuous and my recovery time was getting longer. Overall, I was feeling more tired and sore than I had in previous weeks, which is a good enough indication for me to add an extra supplement to my already nourishing diet.
Lastly is sleep. When I don’t get a restful night of sleep, I am a goner the next day in that my workouts suffer, I have a hard time staying focused and concentrating and I start to get some minor cravings. The importance of getting downtime to unwind each night and sticking to my sleep schedule is all that much more important during contest prep. The deeper I get into my prep, the more rest I need. I can definitely understand why so many athletes say that all they do is eat, sleep and train! A few things that I’ve started doing include keeping my bedroom cool during the night, taking time out of each night to power down (even if it is only to step outside on my balcony for a few minutes to take in the quiet) and napping when possible and as needed. The latter strategy is only possible at home on the weekend, but it’s still very impactful. Case in point, this past Saturday I was feeling really exhausted and I had a tough workout ahead of me, so I laid down in bed, took a powernap and was good to go. One very big thing that can also impact your sleep is eating a heavy meal before bed. I learned this the hard way recently when I had my weekly treat meal very close to bedtime and wound up feeling overheated the entire night and not getting any rest. Lesson definitely learned!
There will probably be more tweaks that I will make and small things that I will notice as I continue with my planning, but I still find it doable based on my current lifestyle and daily schedule. As I’ve said before, the key to this being successful is to integrate the entire prep into what I am already doing instead of trying to completely overhaul my entire life to work around my prep. Next week I’ll be getting a new nutrition and workout plan meaning that I will definitely be kicking it up a notch yet again! I am also really excited to be meeting with my coach for our first in-person training and posing session in the coming weeks. So stay tuned for my next progress update!
Start It, Finish It